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Empty HousesTheatrical Failure and the Novel$
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David Kurnick

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151519

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151519.001.0001

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In the Kingdom of Whomever: Baldwin’s Method

In the Kingdom of Whomever: Baldwin’s Method

(p.192) Epilogue In the Kingdom of Whomever: Baldwin’s Method
Empty Houses

David Kurnick

Princeton University Press

James Baldwin is not only one of the more notable Anglophone twentieth-century novelists to attempt continually and with minimal success to enter the theater. He is also one of the major inheritors of the aesthetic and political problematic we have repeatedly encountered in the course of this book. Baldwin is perhaps the most important twentieth-century novelist to seriously explore what it means to make interiority the bearer of collective desire. This chapter argues that the novel of interiority reaches an impasse and a breakthrough in the work of Baldwin precisely when the contradictions inherent in the attempt to think collective problems through sexual interiority becomes unavoidably insistent—and does so through Baldwin's negotiation with the generic difference of the theater. His career makes clear that if the novel relentlessly personalizes collective issues, its theatrical preoccupation constitutes a record of the political costs of that reduction, one that demands to be read at the level of form.

Keywords:   James Baldwin, novelists, theater, interiority, collective desire

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